The NFL regular season finally gets underway on Thursday night with a pair of NFC North rivals squaring off as the Chicago Bears host the Green Bay Packers. The Bears are listed as three-point favorites at home with an over/under of 46 points.
For the first time since 2011, the Bears will enter a season trying to defend their NFC North division title. Chicago was one of the surprise teams in the NFL last year, going 12-4 after four consecutive last-place finishes in the NFC North. The challenge for them now is to stay on top now that the target is on their back.
Meanwhile, Green Bay is trying to get back on track after two consecutive seasons with a losing record. Before the last two years, the Packers had won five of six NFC North titles and went to the playoffs in eight straight seasons. Of course, those back-to-back losing seasons cost Mike McCarthy his job. First-time head coach Matt LaFleur is now leading the Packers.
Still the One
The head coach, the offensive coordinator, and the scheme may have changed in Green Bay, but Aaron Rodgers is still the quarterback. While the Packers only won six games last season, Rodgers had one of his better seasons, especially coming off a 2017 campaign in which he missed a large chunk of time to injury.
Obviously, the biggest question facing the Packers is how they can best support Rodgers. Outside of Davante Adams, Green Bay’s wide receivers are largely unproven. The Packers are also switching to an outside-zone running scheme, which could create some growing pains for the Green Bay offense early in the season. On top of that, we didn’t see Rodgers during the preseason, so there are a number of questions that linger about how the Green Bay offense will look heading into the season.
A Little Growl
On top of the uncertainty about what the Green Bay offense will look like, they’ll also be facing the Chicago defense. The defensive side of the ball carried the Bears last season, and that’s expected to be the case again. It starts with four Pro Bowl players, most notably Khalil Mack, who’s arguably the best pass rusher in the NFL. Mack’s presence should help Leonard Floyd reach his potential as the other edge rusher. In addition to their four Pro Bowlers, the Bears also have a rising star in Roquan Smith and bulked up an already strong secondary with former Green Bay safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
Of course, the Bears still have to find a way to score points. They leaned on their running game a lot last year, and now rookie David Montgomery will be expected to replace Jordan Howard as the primary back. There’s also the question of quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who was solid in 2018 but needs to take another step forward in 2019 to prevent the Chicago defense from having to do all of the work.
A Little Redemption
The Bears are probably still having nightmares about the incredible comeback Rodgers orchestrated against them in Week 1 last year. They want to avoid a repeat of that, especially at home. Given the uncertainty around Green Bay’s offense, the Bears are poised to dominate this game with their defense. Bet on Chicago to win and cover the three-point spread in the season opener.